The Ultimate Guide to US Nationals

Hey Underground members, I’m Dan Middleton, otherwise known as PokémanDan on YouTube, bringing you an article that Adam has kindly given me the chance to present to you.

Some of you may remember an article I wrote around 2 or 3 months ago detailing the ins and outs of Nationals over here in the UK and Europe. For my debut on the Underground, I’ve decided to step it up and take on the challenge of giving you the ultimate guide to Nationals across the pond in the US.

With the actual event only being a few days away and some of you are even preparing to travel around about now, this article is designed to give you some last minute hints and tips about building and playing against everything you should expect to see at Nationals.

Important Note: The majority of this article was written before the results of Canadian Nationals, therefore I’m going to have a section on the end with some reflection of what might change in the week gap between this and US Nats. This should cover briefly what changes could occur as well as how some of these decks actually performed under competitive pressure.

Dealing with Uncertainty

pokegym.netSince my previous article, we’ve had a shift in rules, complete change in format and a whole new set of decks to get used to which is why this year’s Nationals could be more challenging than ever. The official announcement of HGSS-On was only made on the 15th of June, a fair few days short of a month ago, meaning that you’ve only had this amount of time to prepare for the biggest tournament of the year.

Technically, most of you have had an extra month or so of testing before this since Pokémon pretty much sealed their decision in the later days of April with their initial thoughts about the competitive environment.

Considering this, we’ve still only had a maximum of 2 and a half months to study decks, techs and strategies of the new format which really isn’t a lot of time. This means that Nationals is full of speculation and guesswork so far since we don’t really know what could turn up. So how do we deal with this uncertainty?

Practice is the key to doing well and having a good grasp of how to deal with each match up will show when it comes to the weekend. Even though you’ve only had a small amount of time to get to grips with how everything works, you should be able to get a good idea about how decks are built and work in this new format. Seeing certain cards should help you associate with your opponent’s strategy fast enough to work out your response, even if the deck they’re playing doesn’t follow a religious ‘archetype’.

The biggest thing about this year is that there’s a lot of unpredictability involved. Since the format is still fairly fresh, there are sure to be some crazy deck ideas out there that work, which we haven’t heard about yet. A minority of people will have good decks that haven’t been seen in the public eye yet and could cause some trouble on the day.

The only advice I can give you to combat this is just keep a cool head, make sure you have an understanding of the current card pool well enough to plan out a course of action. These decks are going to be tricky since you haven’t playtested specifically against them, but using knowledge you’ve gained about deck building and playing in your previous testing will still apply.

Other than that, expect everything. There is a lot of creativity out there at the moment and I can confidently say that you will play around 5 or 6 different decks just during swiss so make sure your testing caters for the diverse playing field.

If you haven’t had a lot of testing time, don’t worry because this article has you covered with the most popular decks and cards and how to build or play against them. Sit back, relax and prepare for some last minute revision on all you need to know about the format before the big day.


This deck has been talked about over and over again in the Underground and lists have been compiled and analysed inside out to get the most out of this deck. Now considered the number one deck to beat, Magnezone/Emboar combines the best of attacking strength and draw power even though there’s two stage twos to deal with.

You can more than guarantee that you will face at least one of these in your swiss rounds so make sure you have this matchup down to a tee and that your deck can stand up to it.

If you’re struggling with this matchup then keep going at it and test, test, test. It’s one that shouldn’t take you by surprise so here’s a rough skeleton of what you should expect in most MagneBoar lists:

Pokémon – 19

3 Tepig BW07
1 Pignite BLW 17
2 Emboar BLW 20
1 Emboar BLW 19
3 Magnemite TM
1 Magneton TM
3 Magnezone Prime
2 Cleffa HS
1 Tyrogue HS
1-1 Rayquaza & Deoxys LEGEND

Trainers – 24

4 Pokémon Collector
4 Pokémon Communication

4 Rare Candy
4 Junk Arm
4 Draw Supporters
4 Recovery/Tech

Energy – 15

10 R
5 L

Questionable T/S/S – 8

Spare Slots – 2

These spare slots or questionable slots are going to be filled differently by different players. The good thing about MagneBoar for someone going against it is that these ‘techs’ are fairly limited, meaning that nothing should be able to take you by surprise. So here are the things that you should be wary of coming across or want to include in your own list.

Sage’s Training: This is by far the best choice so far when it comes to maximising draw power in MagneBoar. Being able to select 2 cards from the next 5 gives you a nice amount of control over what to take and even when discarded, these cards can be easily retrieved by other support in the deck. I would personally expect this choice rather than the next one seeing as it is the best draw Supporter for this deck.

Not only this, but it pairs very nicely with Magnezone’s draw power. Being able to look at an extra 5 cards after bumping your hand up to 6 gives you even more consistency that this deck needs. Even using ‘Magnetic Draw’ after playing a Sage’s can benefit your draw power since this paired with a Junk Arm will cut your hand below 6, ready for drawing more.

Professor Juniper: Some people do prefer this over Sage’s Training and I can kind of see why, but I haven’t been swayed enough to replace it in my own list. This card does provide an even quicker mill of the deck, but it doesn’t provide you with the form of control that Sage’s does.

If you do see this in the opposing list, then I would suggest that you expect more bias of recovery cards in the T/S/S department. This means there will probably be more Energy Retrieval, or even Revive included just to have more control over what is in the discard.

Judge: Popular with the first draft of Magnezone in our previous format, this card has great synergy with Magnezone’s power, but it doesn’t really help you get going. The sheer uncertainty of this card is great against your opponent, but can also put you in a bad position, even if you do get to draw more with Magnezone.

This card is one that’s better in the late game since it can throw your opponent off a comeback, or bide yourself enough time to mount one yourself. It all comes down to the idea of ‘control’ again, which seems to always bring me back to Sage’s Training. You can draw well or poorly from this card which is why I don’t like to run it in heavy numbers unless I’m always going to benefit, like in Yanmega’s case for example.

Playing against the deck, you should be wary of this card however, but more in the case of it being a 1-off rather than a full engine. This card can really serve you a useless hand at the point you need to get going before the game is far too gone. Keep the potential of a Judge in the back of your mind when veering into the late game, but most players will prefer a maxed out Sage’s engine.

Energy Retrieval/Switch: I’ve left these out as definite in the list simply because the numbers can differ ever so slightly, but it can have a big impact on how the deck runs. High counts of Switch are an inevitable choice when Pokémon Reversal is this deck’s worst enemy, but Energy Retrieval keeps the constant stream of energy going to rack up high amounts of damage.

The hard thing about this decision is that each game plays out differently, leaving you thinking you’ll need more Switch, when in the next game you find yourself wanting more Energy Retrieval. This is where Junk Arm comes in as the decision-maker. Including just a single copy of either will give you the option to burn it off early via Sage’s Training and have it there for the late game to fish out with Junk Arm.

It’s a really close call as to which one to put in higher number and I’m afraid to say that testing will be your answer. Whichever you choose will be best, but just ask yourself how many decks are going to run Reversal and how often is it going to cause you a problem, then you’ll be able to make the decision. Definitely expect both in the deck when coming up against it, but don’t just assume which one is in the highest number.

Rescue Energy: This card has recently been tested as an alternative recovery option seeing as we really don’t have a great way to get Pokémon back from the discard pile and ready for use quickly enough. Rescue Energy can sit nicely on Magnezone, fuelling ‘Lost Burn’ while you throw other energy into the Lost Zone. Magnezone is hard enough to KO once, but when your opponent can bounce it back to the hand and refresh it onto the field in a matter of turns, things can get even worse.

Now this card really shouldn’t be played in numbers of higher than two since there needs to be a high count of ‘useable’ energy in terms of ‘Fire Fandango’. That being said, you should expect one of these to pop up when you think you’ve got the Magnezone out of the way, so be wary of Magnetons on the bench, ready to be evolved when Magnezone bounces back to the hand.

Flower Shop Lady: The only other splashable form of recovery in this format. Being able to get some of those energy and crucial Stage 1s back from the discard pile sounds great, but then you need to have a way to search them out after they’ve gone back in.

This is why I’ve kept it out as an optional card. It just doesn’t seem to do anything more than Energy Retrieval can do when played correctly for me, but it is nice to know you have some way to get back those Stage 1s which you run so little of.

Junk Arm seems to be the best form of recovery in this deck, being able to grab back Rare Candy rather than having to use your Supporter for the turn and then having a way to get those Pokémon back to evolve slower. I guess I’m just not sold on the card yet, but you should definitely consider it when playtesting and keep it in mind that the threat of Stage 1 evolution isn’t gone altogether when it hits the discard pile.

2-2 RDL: This sounds crazy, but some people are doing it. This cards sheer amount of firepower and prize taking ability is too much to turn down for some people who will bump their Legend line to the maximum. This could give you some issues when playing against it since it effectively gives them 4 Prizes for two attacks, but it will take a toll on their deck’s consistency.

This card really shouldn’t be played until late game to take the last 2 Prizes unless it’s being used in desperation when things aren’t going to plan. If you’re playing against this deck, they have 2 Prizes remaining and you haven’t seen an RDL yet, I would be extremely wary of the possibility.

To be honest, there isn’t a great deal you can do about that than go on the offensive straight away to try and get the win before they have the chance to set it up. Whatever you throw at them will get KO’d, no matter what and those last 2 Prizes will be a sinch for them to take. Keep on your toes, get those KOs in before it hits the field and play smart, keeping track of how many energy they’ve burned and discarded to predict when the threat could emerge.

Overall, these are pretty much all of the options you are given when building the deck and when it comes to playing against it, you should have all these cards in mind when you haven’t seen them played yet.

In general, MagneBoar can either set up well, or get off to a slow start giving you some kind of false perception that the game is slowly becoming yours. Try not to fall into this state of mind because this deck can bounce back considerably quickly and take fast prizes with either Magnezone to get rid of your main threat, or RDL to take those extra prizes for a shockingly quick comeback.

Achilles’ Heel: MagneBoar’s main weakness is the high Retreat Cost and sometimes slow set up. If you run Pokémon Reversal then make full use of it in this game to drag up Tepigs and get rid of their main source of power. Magnezone’s can be dealt with by themselves, but when Emboar hits the field it’s a completely different story and 140/150HP is going to be hard to topple quick enough.

Early heads on Reversal is the deck’s worst nightmare, but if this doesn’t work, try getting in those early KOs on Tepig simply because as soon as it hits Pignite the HP shoots up to 100, a tough number to reach early on in the game.

Watch out for this one as I’m sure no one would be surprised if this deck takes the crown.


This was one of the original ideas when Emboar came to be public knowledge and presents a fast way to do 120 damage early on, devastating most chances for the opponent to get set-up.

Pokémon – 15

2 Cleffa HS
1 ‘Other Baby’
3/4 Reshiram BLW
3 Tepig BW07
1 Pignite BLW 17
3 Emboar BLW 20

Trainers – 25

4 Pokémon Collector
4 Pokémon Communication
4 Junk Arm
3-4 PlusPower
3 Rare Candy
2 Energy Retrieval
4 Draw Supporters

Energy – 15

15 R

Questionable T/S/S – 5

Free Slots – 5

The choices presented with this deck are much more limited than MagneBoar which is probably because of the size of the card pool we’ve got to deal with right now. Here’s what you should be going through your head when building and playing against the deck.

An Extra Fire Pokémon: The obvious choice for any Fire deck when it comes to drawing cards is Ninetales, so why haven’t I put that straight into the skeleton? Well, that’s because there is another option which people will try out and take to Nats, Typhlosion Prime.

Typhlosion further adds to the strategy of attacking for high amounts of damage, but this Pokémon focuses on keeping that energy flow going via its Poké-Power. Dragging R Energy from the discard pile and attaching it back onto the active is going to be a great aspect to Reshiram even though you will be tacking damage onto your main attacker. This obviously isn’t a bad thing when it comes to Reshiram since ‘Outrage’ can take full advantage of this.

Typhlosion will slow this deck down a little bit, but this deck is much better than it sounds. The recycling of energy is key to the strategy and you can hit for some really high damage, taking into account the extra 10 damage from Typhlosion’s Poké-Power. Try it out, but this could be better used if you replace Emboar with this Pokémon, not as well as.

Ninetales on the other hand, will give you a lot more draw power and keeps this deck running as smoothly as possible, which you’re going to need when you want Emboar out ASAP to get attacking. This form of power paired with some nice recovery of energy via Energy Retrieval and having even more forms of draw via your choice of draw Supporter, this strategy can easily be set up faster than it looks on paper.

Playing against this deck, it should become fairly obvious which Fire support the opponent has chosen which is where you can adjust your strategy accordingly, even if they play both. When playing against Ninetales, try and Reversal it up and get rid of it before they get too far ahead in terms of draw, or try and keep track of how much energy they have already discarded to verify whether it will be used next turn.

pokegym.netWhen playing against Typhlosion, Reversal is also another option to stall while you get your resources together and keeping track of that extra 10 damage can keep you ahead of the game when deciding which attacker to go with. Always be wary of Reshiram’s Outrage attack however, since it can rack up some really nice damage when it’s close to being KO’d.

The ‘Other Baby’: I’ve only put 2 Cleffa in here as a starter so far since this deck can benefit from 3 different choices. The first is simply adding another Cleffa, the second being Tyrogue and the third is Elekid.

Elekid was brought to my attention in Fulop’s latest Underground article and it’s used to add an extra 20 damage to potential threats earlier on in the game, ready for a blast of 120 later on. This brings Pokémon such as Magnezone and fellow Legends into the 1HKO range rather than needing an extra turn to get the KO.

The choice is completely up to player choice and make sure you keep in mind about the Elekid. It won’t be a very popular choice in any deck when it comes to Nationals, but that extra 20 damage really can hurt in the mid-late game. Another one to watch out for.

Draw Support: Although this deck already thrives off of a self-contained draw engine in the form of Ninetales, you’re still going to need extra draw power to get the ball rolling. I won’t go into the details of each one since I did that with the previous deck and the ideas are pretty much the same, however, you could benefit from different choices when it comes to selecting each one.

You still run a maximum count of Junk Arm here, but the synergy with Sage’s Training is significantly lowered when you take Magnezone out of the equation. With Ninetales however, you could still be implementing the same kind of idea with the need to have your hand lower than 6 to draw.

Juniper could be a lot more solid choice since this deck can deal with discarding the energy and also gives you the option of running more Energy Retrieval if needed. Juniper also adds a lot to the speed and, when paired with ‘Roast Reveal’ you could be drawing up to 11 new cards in a turn with the option to retrieve cards you’ve discarded with Junk Arm and Energy Retrieval.

pokemon-paradijs.comSpeaking of discarding, Engineer’s Adjustments is also an extremely viable option even though this card has been somewhat underlooked so far. This card will also get you drawing extra cards, but they will be on top of your original hand rather than a replacement.

Pair this with Roast Reveal and you have a total of 8 extra cards to utilise at the cost of just two R Energy, which will be easy enough to get back through the use of the appropriate trainers.

3 or 4 PlusPower: This will up to player choice yet again, but justifying your decision should be up to testing and whether you find yourself struggling to get that extra 10 damage often.

The magic number when it comes to 1HKOs seems to be around 140 which means you need two PlusPowers for this, suggesting that maxing them out could be the potential solution. But considering you run the max of Junk Arm, you could do with just 3 while you utilise this strategy to get the second.

Adding the fourth will give you more opportunity to Junk Arm for other trainers, but do you find yourself needing that fourth one? Or will it become a card you’re going to Junk Arm away anyway?

Playing against this, you must be wary when your attacker is coming within 10 or 20 damage from a KO from either Outrage or ‘Blue Flare’. Chances are the opponent will have a way to stretch that far if they really need to eliminate the threat from your side of the field. Keep them in mind and constantly check their PlusPower and Junk Arm use to determine the chances of them pulling off multiple PlusPowers for their next attack.

To Reversal or not? I would say that Reversal is a key part of the deck, but I haven’t included it in the list because people may prefer Pokémon Circulator. Sleeping Baby Pokémon are a nightmare for this deck since it just stops you for one turn with no other thing to do but ‘pass’. This can be incredibly frustrating when you’re ready to rip through whatever they’ve got to offer at the time.

pokemon-paradijs.comThis is where the choice comes in. Pokémon Reversal gives you the choice of which Pokémon to bring forward, giving you more control over foiling their strategy dependant on a flip, but Pokémon Circulator just moves the Baby out the way without a flip.

I would personally choose Circulator, or a mix of both for this deck simply because whatever they put up is going to get KO’d anyway and getting a prize on any Pokémon works better for me than having to rely on a coin flip to KO the Pokémon I want.

I know many of you will probably disagree with me on this one, but those Babies are just too annoying to keep up there and flipping tails will possibly put you a turn behind when you need to be just that little bit ahead.

Revive: This is a very questionable card in the deck and is a toss-up between this and Flower Shop Lady. I would personally run this over Flower Shop Lady and have more Energy Retrieval so that everything comes back into play instantly rather than having to draw more and use it as it comes.

Revive would usually be a card to avoid when it comes to general Stage 2 decks, but being able to bring that Reshiram straight back into play after your opponent’s best efforts to get rid of it the first time keeps the pressure on.

I have put 3 OR 4 in the skeleton list above since cutting down on a Reshiram is okay if you’re running Revive since you have a lot more versatile recovery options. 4 Reshiram is great, but can seem to be a bit too much since it lasts a while when it’s on the field.

pokegym.netRevive could spring up in small numbers when playing against Reshiram and when you’ve spent so many resources getting the KO, it could just pop straight back onto the bench next turn. There isn’t much you can do about this, but being prepared for an instant recovery is something you should do. Expect that Reshiram will come back sooner rather than later.

Overall, this deck brings some heavy damage much like MagneBoar, but seems to do it a bit faster and serves some easier recovery as well. It hasn’t been a heavily tested concept so far, but with the right list I feel that this one can go far too.

Achilles’ Heel: Draw power and energy. This deck can run thin early on in the game giving you a chance to get some much needed damage onto Reshiram before it becomes really aggressive. Try to keep track of how much energy and resources your opponent has used as recovery is a big part of this deck’s strategy.

Also try and get rid of those Vulpix before they have multiple on the field since this is their main source of draw in the deck. Take advantage of Ninetales not being in the field if they are struggling to get it out and go on the offensive to put them in a bad position. Stay cool and plan out your moves an extra turn ahead to make sure you can at least 2HKO this bulky Pokémon while being wary of PlusPower and possibly Revive making an appearance.


Donphan is one of the fastest and hardest hitters of this format and presents us with a very nice PokéBody as well to make it even more difficult to get rid of. Pairing this with one of the bulkiest Stage 2s, Machamp Prime also makes use of Donphan’s ‘Earthquake’ damage with an in-built Switch to boot.

Pokémon – 16

3 Machop TM
1 Machoke TM
3 Machamp Prime
3 Phanpy CL
3 Donphan Prime
2 Cleffa HS
1 Tyrogue HS

Trainers – 28

3 Pokémon Collector
4 Pokémon Communication
4 Rare Candy
2 Switch
4 Pokémon Reversal
6-8 Draw Supporters
2-3 Junk Arm

Energy – 14

10 F
4 Double Colorless

Questionable T/S/S – 9

Spare Slots – 2

This deck is a little varied compared to the other two, probably because its one of the few top tiers that doesn’t feature Emboar, but the choices in here are a little more interesting to make.

Draw Support: Back to this choice again and this deck certainly needs it, which is why you can dedicate up to 8 spaces for cards solely used to draw. My personal choice for the list would be between the two Professors, Juniper and Oak. Juniper is great to mill through the deck, making sure you get that Donphan going turn 2 and start collecting together what you need for Machamp Prime later on.

My personal choice would be Professor Oak since it seems to do really nicely when maxed out in decks that have no draw in terms of Pokémon. 4 Oak with 2 Juniper is a great combo to use when in this situation and works really nicely since you have the option of dumping what you’ve got or just recycling it into the deck for later use.

Since you have a massive 8 spaces there for draw support, you could easily fit in Sage’s Training as well, but I’m not sure if that works as well since you have the lower Junk Arm count. That being said, even with the lower Junk Arm count, Sage’s does help you mill through your deck fairly quickly, but the choices you are forced to make could be tough.

I would expect high counts of PONT when coming up against this deck, but also expect the odd Juniper too. If they are using more than 2 Juniper, keep an eye on their Junk Arm use to keep track of which resources they can get back, if any. This will help you to keep a step ahead, which you really need to be when Donphan’s about.

1-0-1 Magnezone. What?! Carrying on from the previous point is this little gimmick which has been touched upon in the past two articles on the Underground with good results. I mentioned just now that this deck suffers from little draw power and has to rely heavily on shuffle draw Supporters, which can just completely fail you if luck isn’t on your side.

pokegym.netThis is where Magnezone can come in as a card for the sole purpose of giving you draw power rather than acting as an attacker. I would suggest though, if you do include this, to put Rainbow Energy in since there is a high chance your opponent will choose Magnezone as a Reversal target as soon as it hits the field.

The inclusion of a couple of Rainbow Energy will mean that you can still attack with Magnezone if you want too since its attack is still really strong.

Magnezone becoming Reversal bait isn’t always that bad here since you run a couple of Switch and just attaching a single F Energy to it means you can utilise ‘Fighting Tag’.

Should we PlusPower? This deck already has a lot of raw power, so it’s probably a strange card to think about, but there is good reason. One of the main reasons for choosing DonChamp as your deck is that it has a better matchup against MagneBoar, hitting Magnezone for its double weakness.

What PlusPower does for you is turn that 2HKO via Earthquake into a 1HKO. Just one PlusPower will tip that matchup a little more into your favor than it already was which is great considering MagneBoar is THE deck to beat when the weekend comes. This also gives you a 1HKO on a fresh Zekrom when you approach that matchup and the extra damage could come in useful when getting to that magic 140 damage with ‘Champ Buster’.

Junk Arm: This time we aren’t going for the maximum of these simply because you aren’t going to need a lot of help from your discarded trainers this time around. You’re only really going to need Rare Candy and possibly Switch from the discard unlike decks with Emboar that rely on that key Energy Retrieval to keep them in the game.

That being said, this card is still so good that you can’t completely ignore it. Being able to grab Rare Candys when they just aren’t coming works really well in this deck, even with a lower count, because you run just one Stage 2. This just opens up more options than you would normally have in a turn and can help you out a lot mid-late game to keep on top of your opponent.

Bouffalant BW: Any deck that runs maximum Double Colourless Energy should consider this as a tech. This ‘Revenge’ attacker can help you deal with Zekrom and more importantly Rayquaza Deoxys Legend. RDL will give you trouble if you’re planning on running this deck as it can 1HKO both of your main attackers while taking 2 Prizes in the process.

This card will give you the opportunity to deal with this threat after it has hit the field because if you don’t deal with it, you aren’t getting rid of it any time soon. This is a fairly simple response to one of this decks biggest threats and allow you to take a 2 Prize response to theirs.

When playing against DonChamp, don’t rule out the possibility of this inclusion. I would expect it in probably all of the builds hitting the top tables simply because it is such a good tech against the most popular deck in the format so far.

Being able to 1HKO RDL and then retreat next turn via DCE is just too good a factor to ignore, so make sure if you’re using RDL that you use it to finish the game rather than help you along in this matchup

The Zoroark Decision: This is one that I’m not too sure on yet and tend to choose Bouffalant over this most if the time simply because Zoroark seems to be a little easier to get around than Bouffalants outright Revenge. This card gives the ability to copy attacks like Ozone Buster, Bolt Strike, Blue Flare and every other highly powered attack, but I’m really not sure how well this can work. It will take an extra turn to get out rather than Bouffalant, but Bouffalant only does the 90 return damage.

Zoroark is a much better attacker than Bouffalant is, but playing around it is much easier. If they see you go ahead and bench Zorua, it will be the target of Reversal next turn and could be KO’d then and there, wasting your tech. Whereas Bouffalant can be set up in a single turn meaning your opponent can’t do anything about it.

Other than that, after a KO on your part with Zoroark, they could just send Cleffa, or something of similar description up to just leave you with nothing but Eeeeek and the annoying potential of falling asleep (without immunity!). Maybe it’s just me, but Bouffalant seems to be the better choice here since it hits nice, takes a single turn to set up and KOs a big hitter causing some big trouble as well as others in the format.

pokegym.netIf you’re seeing Zorua/s hitting the field when playing against this, make them the target of your Reversals or just have a response to it after they copy your attack. Putting up something that can 2HKO it will give you the advantage after suffering a KO yourself if you have an attack that only allows them to 2HKO you (Donphan for example).

Overall, this is a very solid choice for Nationals. It has a nice advantage against the most popular deck at the moment as well as some very fast damage with Donphan when up against anything else. The only thing this deck can suffer from is draw power which hinders the MagneBoar matchup slightly, but get the draw supporters right for you in the list and you’ll have it rolling in no time.

Playing against this deck can be tough when you’re presented with a turn 2 Donphan, wrecking you with fast and hard damage. Your best response is a Water Pokémon or just some nice Reversals to get cheap KOs while setting up your back line.

Donphan’s Poké-Body will without a doubt cause you some trouble but big attackers such as Reshiram, Bad Boar, RDL and maybe Zekrom should be able to deal with it in just a couple of turns or less. The big HP is challenging to deal with, but keep your game face and plan each KO carefully and make each attack count, making sure you get the 2HKOs when needed.

Achilles’ Heel: Speed. This deck can suffer with speed issues in the early game so take advantage of this while you can when playing against this. Phanpys should be your main target early on since Donphan causes un-wanted early game pressure.

Getting some Phanpys into the discard pile early will force them to hit back with Machamp, which takes a fair while to set up when they aren’t getting that acceleration via Fighting Tag and damage isn’t being spread via Earthquake quick enough. This is one of the top three you should test against because this one will give you so much trouble when allowed the chance to set-up.

ZPS (Zekrom/Pachirisu/Shaymin)

This one is a tricky one. It has strong early game presence, being able to hit for 120 possibly on turn 1 but it fizzles out very quickly after using a lot of its resources early on. I wouldn’t suggest playing this deck for this very reason and the fact that DonChamp is going to give you a lot of issues in high numbers.

This is one of those you’ll need to play against to learn the match up and just get to grips with how to topple it since its going to be played, purely because of its popularity.

Pokémon – 14

4 Zekrom BLW
3 Cleffa HS
1 Tyrogue HS
3 Pachirisu CL
3 Shaymin UL

Trainers – 24

4 Victory Medal
4 Pokémon Collector
7 Draw Supporters
4 Pokémon Reversal
4 Junk Arm
4 PlusPower
1 Revive

Energy – 14

14 L

Questionable T/S/S – 7

Spare Slots – 4

pokegym.netThere aren’t a ton of options for this deck since it just needs to start using Bolt Strike as early as possible and not much else really. Those spare slots are going to be filled with mainly some more consistency cards or 1-off techs to make the mid game a little stronger.

Yanmega Prime: The main other partner for Zekrom at the moment and is supposed to solve the Donphan problem that this deck has. Being double weak to Fighting means that Earthquake is going to 1HKO you with just a single PlusPower and when Machamp hits the field, you’re going to be in a very tight spot.

Yanmega’s Fighting Resistance keeps Donphan at bay, but only for one extra turn, which is why I’m not really sold on using it yet. I’ve got a section about Yanmega later on in the article which should help you to make your decision, so read on for more about this Pokémon.

This will be the most common addition to Zekrom so expect to see it when playing against this. It provides some extra spread damage across the board to create those 1HKOs that Zekrom needs and also helps to deal with Donphan, but I wouldn’t worry about it too much if you’re playing Donphan because it really isn’t all it’s hyped up to be as a ‘counter’.

Professor Juniper: This card is great for your main draw support in this deck. You need to mill through your cards as fast as possible to grab what you need to get Zekrom hitting for 120. It gets you the stuff you need right away and applies that early game pressure, also leaving you with the option to utilise Junk Arm, getting back those key Reversals you most desperately need.

However, this card does further add to Zekrom’s weakness, the weak late game. With you burning through cards left, right and centre, you aren’t going to have any resources left to really do anything later on while your opponent lays on the offensive.

pokegym.netThis is what you should keep track of when going against this deck, when the game is veering into mid game territory. Make sure you know how many of each card they’ve used/burned away and you’ll have a good idea about what kind of response they have next turn to whatever you do.

Pokémon Collector: You could argue that you don’t need this in here because you can run max Juniper with some other draw, but I find the turn 1 Collector too crucial to getting the quick start. If you’re going first, utilising Collector to grab what you need dependent on your hand is great and using Juniper from there pretty much seals the turn 2 120.

Some people don’t like this so you can take it out for some more shuffle draw or some support in terms of recovery, but that’s the way I would run it if I took it to Nats.

Nothing else to say? I’m struggling to keep this section going because there really aren’t any other viable options for this deck. It has one sole purpose and that is all this deck is about, which is also its biggest weakness.

I don’t find this deck fun to play at all and it really doesn’t require much thought after the first couple of turns. I wouldn’t suggest playing this deck if you like a challenge and you will have a tough time against DonChamp when facing it, lucky if you come out alive.

Overall, to keep on top of this deck, play Basics two at a time to make sure Reversal doesn’t hinder you too much and try to keep the game going smoothly until the mid game, where you can then take the game from there. This deck suffers from the self damage, making it much easier to KO and if they are over extending their resources, take full advantage of this.

Achilles’ Heel: Weakness plays a big part in this, as mentioned above, as one of the other popular plays, DonChamp will give you a very hard time. Even though doing 120 early on is great, they only need to save a Phanpy on the bench to evolve next turn and then start wrecking your main attacker, fast.

The second weakness is having to add that 40 damage on after doing 120. Yeah, this is great for using Outrage next turn, if you get one. That 40 damage does a lot of work for your opponent meaning they only need to do 90 damage next turn to KO your attacker.

Make sure you take full advantage of this when playing against ZPS. That extra 40 damage really comes in handy and a lot of Pokémon hit for at least 90 right now fairly easily. As long as you have a response to a possible Zekrom next turn, you’re going to be okay since they will be weakened yet again by Bolt Strike.

The last is the deck ‘fizzling out’ really quickly. Because they are milling early on and needing that turn 1 damage so quickly, if you can take this match past the mid game, you should be able to take it from there even if the prizes don’t look that way. This does rely on their luck on Reversal flips a little bit as to whether you have any attackers left, but planning in advance will keep you ahead of the game with good results in the end.

Sorry that I don’t have more to say about this deck, I’ve played and tested against it and I really don’t like it as a deck. For the fans of it, I think I’ve given you as much as I can in terms of options since there aren’t many that are going to work effectively.


This deck features a really heavy snipe and some fairly fast energy acceleration which is hoping to make quite a splash at Nationals this time around. However, it may not have everything going for it that it maybe could have because of other top contenders. Here’s a skeleton to consider:

Pokémon – 20

4 Squirtle UL
2 Wartortle UL
4 Blastoise UL
3 Buizel UL
3 Floatzel UL
3 Cleffa HS
1 Tyrogue HS

Trainers – 21

4 Pokémon Collector
4 Pokémon Communication
4 Rare Candy
6-8 Draw Supporters
2 Junk Arm
1 Energy Retrieval

Energy – 14

11 W
3 Double Colorless

Questionable T/S/S – 8

Spare Slots – 4

Back to Draw Support: This healthy topic again, but this time it’s fairly similar to DonChamp in the way that there really isn’t much draw power in the form of Pokémon help at all. With this apparent issue, I’ve gone with a very nice chunk of 6-8 draw supporters, since you’re going to need it to get this one running as smoothly as possible.

I’m really a big fan of max PONT at the moment in conjunction with 2 Juniper as I went for in the DonChamp section earlier. It gives you great refreshing of the hand after using your resources and works really nice getting a second refresh via Cleffa for even more draw support.

I won’t bore you with the spiel about which ones are better than the other again since I covered them pretty well in the DonChamp section and they are very similar in these terms.

Mantine HS: This card is an interesting one that could be considered as a secondary starter to get those Water Pokémon from the deck as soon as possible, without having to rely on PONT draw too much. Being able to grab these from the deck is nice, but maybe warranting an attack for it could be a little slow, which is why you would only use it earlier on in the first couple of turns when it’s perfect for grabbing a Stage 2 while holding Rare Candy.

The 80HP is nice for not getting Tyrogue donked and holds the single Retreat Cost which nicely matches the cost for the attack you plan to use. I would personally try 3 of these and 2 Cleffa if you want to run this. That means you have some good shuffle draw when things aren’t going so well early on, but Mantine is there to grab key Pokémon for the next turn when you’re holding those Candy, ready for use.

This won’t be a popular choice in decks similar to this since it bears the Lightning Weakness that nobody wants right now with the popular threats, but a KO on this will keep your opponent’s search limited if they haven’t been using Communication to grab anything else.

pokegym.netIf they have been using Communication you could probably spend your time better by tacking damage onto Squirtle and Wartortle before it becomes a Blastoise, so that you’re much closer to that KO when they finally lay it down.

If you run high counts of Judge, it would be a good idea to analyse their field after seeing their choice with ‘Group Swim’ to see how they are going to use it and then Judge it away if necessary.

This will effectively take your opponent backwards a step or two seeing as their attack has been wasted and put a halt in whatever they were planning to do next turn, which is probably one of Mantine’s biggest weaknesses.

Rescue Energy: I didn’t include this in the skeleton because I haven’t tested Rescue in here properly enough yet to make a decision. This card is definitely useful in Stage 2 decks when you hit the late game or when higher stages are prized, so you can half evolve on the bench when expecting the KO, Rescue all the parts, evolve up next turn and repeat.

This will keep a constant flow of attackers going rather than having to struggle when your last available Blastoise hits the discard.

I wouldn’t run any higher than 2 or 3 at a push simply because you want to be using your attachment ideally for DCE initially, rather than taking another turn to attach a further energy the next turn to get attacking. Not only this, but including just the 2 makes sure that you’re using it later on in the game and not drawing into it too early on when you need that DCE to get the engine going.

Magnezone again? The same idea applies here as in DonChamp. Magnezone could easily be slotted in here as a thin line (1-0-1) simply to draw cards, helping consistency that this kind of deck desperately needs. It may have more of a place here than in DonChamp because the deck can drop energy pretty quickly via Floatzel to add to Lost Burn’s power, but you’d have to include some Rainbow to do this.

pokegym.netHowever, the difference of the inclusion here is that you don’t have the in-built Switch like you do when it comes to Machamp. You may want to include a single Switch if you decide to go with some extra draw power simply to get Magnezone out of the Active Spot when it’s made the target of a Reversal.

The Double Colourless ‘Tech’: With the fairly heavy focus on Double Colourless energy, again like DonChamp, you have the option of including either Zoroark or Bouffalant, but in this deck I would run Zoroark this time.

Since this deck really suffers from no early game damage, early heavy hitters such as Reshiram and Zekrom can give you some trouble and Zoroark is a Pokémon that can deal with that while you are setting up on the bench. Being able to copy Ozone Buster is also great and functions as the counter to RDL if needed, even if Bouffalant is better at that.

When playing against this deck, expect the Zoroark and keep your eye on benched Zoruas along with their Double Colourless use so far so you know how quickly they are going to get it copying your heavy hitters.

What About Feraligatr? The other ‘version’ of this deck focuses more on Feraligatr, using it to attach energy straight away, but straight onto Blastoise rather than utilising ‘Wash Out’. I feel this version to be weaker than the above simply because it involves two Stage 2s and Feraligatr lacks the bonuses that Floatzel has, like free retreat.

Just one Floatzel on the bench is enough to keep that energy flow going and free retreat is a great aspect in this format. The pre-evolution, Buizel, also has an interesting early attack ‘Muddy Water’ that allows you to pull 110HP Pokémon such as Yanmega Prime into 1HKO range.

Don’t expect every Blastoise based deck to run Floatzel, since Feraligatr is still good, but I personally like Floaztel more because it’s faster which this deck definitely benefits from. Make Feraligatr your Reversal bait if playing against that variant and try your best to get rid of Floatzels as soon as possible to put a stopper to their energy flow which is so crucial to their strategy.

pokemon-paradijs.comOverall, this deck is slow but can really snipe for some great damage if they get that Blastoise going quick enough. I don’t think this will see a lot of play, but do expect it and at least test a few games to get the general idea of how to play against it. Early Squirtle and Wartortle KOs leaves them with no decent attackers and you should be able to take the game from there.

The obvious synergy is there, but with Lightning weakness being so prominent in this format, people will be put off playing this in high numbers.

Achilles’ Heel: Yet again, weakness is one of this deck’s main flaws. Lightning Weakness really is a terrible thing to have when it comes to the field at Nationals. I keep making this point, but Magnezone will be a very popular play on the day which can 1HKO a Blastoise with 3 burns of energy. 3 burns can get Magnezone running low on energy late game, but it can pull it off early enough to get you in a tough spot.

If you aren’t playing a Lightning based attacker, you should make full use of its second weakness, slowness. I’m finding this to be much slower than DonChamp since it doesn’t have any form of early damage and has to set up that Stage 2 Blastoise to even get attacking well.

Fair enough, this could happen turn 2, but the deck still needs to have 4 energy attached to attack for any damage at all due to Blastoise’s lack of second attack. You should be able to take full advantage of this and manage to KO Squirtles while you can via Reversal or other means and even when Blastoise hits the field, you could have the ability to 2HKO it fairly freely because of this slowness.

One last thing is that 100 damage snipe really isn’t amazing anymore with no really efficient way to add damage in this format. At best you’re going to be 2HKOing Magnezone, Zekrom, Yanmega and Emboar which is a really slow way to go. Since this deck isn’t likely to outspeed anything, this could be its downfall if it comes to the top tables.


A deck that failed to make the huge impact it was hyped up to last format has been fairly underlooked so far, but it still has a fairly good chance at functioning in HGSS-On.

Pokémon – 20

4 Mew Prime
3 Cleffa HS
4 Gastly TM
2 Haunter TM
4 Gengar Prime
1 Mr. Mime CL
2 Spiritomb TM

Trainers – 27

4 Pokémon Collector
3 Pokémon Communication
4 Rare Candy
4 Twins
4-5 Draw Supporters
2 Pokégear 3.0
2-3 Lost World
1-2 Seeker

Energy – 12

12 P

Questionable T/S/S – 6

Spare Slots – 1

A Second Mr. Mime: I like to run this in my Lostgar seeing as it works so nicely with ‘Spooky Whirlpool’. Being able to see if your opponent has any Pokémon in hand with the first ‘Trick Reveal’ with the option to Spooky Whirlpool them into another and then look again makes sure that you are using Gengar to its full potential.

You don’t want to be wasting a turn by having to guess the second ‘Hurl Into Darkness’ when you can know for sure whether to use it or go for dropping some damage counters onto the board instead.

I’m not sure how many people will like this idea, but just be aware of this strategy when playing against this. There isn’t a whole lot you can do about it apart from dragging one up with Reversal for a KO, leaving them with just the one to keep on guessing. I would definitely try it if you’re playing around with LostGar as it does really help when bench space allows.

Mime Jr: One of the other Baby Pokémon that really only serves purpose in this deck. Starting with this is great to throw one of your opponent’s cards into the Lost Zone with a chance of ‘Baby stalling’ your opponent next turn. Even if that card isn’t a Pokémon, you could still hit one of their key cards during the game which will put your opponent at a disadvantage later on.

There isn’t anything you can do against this card, but keeping track of what was Lost Zoned, if not a Pokémon, is key to staying straight in the game in the long run. Know your decklist well enough and you should be able to narrow down what you won’t be able to utilise later on and adjust your strategy accordingly.

No Junk Arm?! To be honest, I don’t feel this deck needs it. In decks such as MagneBoar and DonChamp, you’re going to need the reuse of key trainers to get extra damage with PlusPower or Rare Candy another Stage 2, but this deck can play out of the Lost Zone as well with Mew Prime, lessening the need for more Rare Candy later on. The count of Pokémon Communication is just below max, but a maxed out Twins line means that you have a lot of search in here already to search out Pokémon and Rare Candy, as and when you need them.

Pokégear 3.0: Since you are running so many Supporters, this card really helps to get the ones you need, when you need them. Since there isn’t any effective way to search out Supporters from the deck anymore, finding that Twins when you need it is a little harder.

Searching through the next 7 cards of your deck means you have a high chance of hitting Twins when you’ve maxed it out and just gives you a little more consistency when you aren’t drawing into it. This can also grab you Seeker when you are running low on Lost Zoned Pokémon later in the game.

Seeker: Speaking of Seeker, I’ve only said to include 1 OR 2 in the list above because you may not need both when you are dealing with double Mr Mime as suggested above. Being able to further guarantee your chance of Lost Zoning Pokémon means that you won’t have to rely a whole lot on Seeker during the game. This leaves your Supporter slot open to grab further resources with Twins when going for the Spooky Whirlpool.

I would definitely try it with and without Seeker because guaranteeing a Lost Zone of a Pokémon is great later on in the game when they are harder to come by. Seeker can also reuse Spooky Whirlpool and free up your own bench space when needed.

Always suspect that your opponent is running Seeker and make sure you have the option to pick up something less than useful for them to Lost Zone. You don’t want to be picking up one of your fully evolved Stage 2s just for them to Lost Zone it, rendering that line now useless as well as putting you back 2 turns. Benching Baby Pokémon isn’t a great idea since Gengar can drop damage counters on them to KO them, but maybe that’s better if that’s your only option rather than a crucial Pokémon.

Revive: I really like this card in decks that run Mew Prime because it will give you the option of effectively running a 5th when the Gengar Prime isn’t completely set-up via evolving. Having that 5th Mew can give you an extra Lost Zoning of a Pokémon which you otherwise would have missed if things aren’t going great. You can also rescue Gastly when holding Candy and Gengar, but I would put the priority one using it with Mew. Something to consider and try out.

pokegym.netI would be expecting Mew Primes to have some way to find themselves back onto the field when playing against LostGar. They are fairly fragile and increase this deck’s speed considerably so having the extra one or two available is something you should always expect that your opponent has, even if they don’t end up having it in the long run.

Relicanth CL: Consider this an alternative over Mime Jr since Relicanth falls into ‘starter’ territory for this deck. Being able to Lost Zone a Pokémon (hopefully Gengar) and draw 3 cards can improve this decks consistency, but it does hold a very hefty 2 Retreat Cost which really can slow you down again.

This is one to try out, but not rely on when building this since the extra draw and HP are nice, but the 2 retreat can negate this advantage by slowing you down again.

If a Relicanth has been played early on against you, you can make it a nice target for Pokémon Reversal to make them attach two energy to retreat it back out again, if you have the option to snipe around it for some cheap damage. This will also slow them down considerably if you need some extra time to set up as well so keep in mind Relicanth’s biggest weakness.

Jirachi UL: A tech that’s becoming more popular in Psychic based decks that can cause havoc on your opponent when they are utilising Rare Candy. Most decks now are relying on using Rare Candy to get their Stage 2s into play as soon as possible and Jirachi can give you the option of sending those Pokémon back to their hand, effectively wasting their Rare Candy.

If they don’t have a way to get that Pokémon back onto the field before your next turn, you are guaranteed the Lost Zoning of a crucial part of their deck via Mew or Gengar. If they do have another Rare Candy to get it back onto the field via Junk Arm or normal Candy, you’ve still forced them to use up further resources which they originally wouldn’t have had to.

pokegym.netNot only this, but Jirachi powers itself up through its Poké-Power if you have the energy in the discard pile from earlier on in the game.

This is one of those techs that you won’t know is there until they play it and use it against you, which makes it hard to play against. The best thing you can do is just make sure you have access to a Rare Candy the next turn in case the situation arises and if they don’t implement Jirachi you should be safe anyway to carry on next turn.

Overall, this deck has some very nice options going for it and can still be a solid play for Nationals. I would test a lot though if you are deciding to go with this since getting your list consistent and practicing each match up will be crucial to taking this deck farther than average. Another one to watch out for.

Achilles’ Heel: I would say Gengar’s biggest weakness is finding the last few Pokémon to Lost Zone and fill the win condition. Whereas ‘normal’ decks can happily take just 4 Prizes and win, Gengar has to get 6 in the Lost Zone to win and no less. The first few are fairly easy to get since Pokémon are prominent in early hands, but when we verge into the late game, Gengar has some more work to do.

Take advantage of this by keeping Pokémon out of your hand via Junk Arm etc, during the late game while you have some established attackers up front. Keep track of your opponent’s Seeker use to make sure you know if that will be a threat to an extra late game Lost Zoning.

The Stage One ‘Rush’

This section I’m going to tackle a little differently. The decks up above are more developed ‘archetypes’ and this group has slowly become a form of splashable mix’n’match group that you can fit together to play off each of their individual strengths.

Instead, I’ll go through what’s good about the card, how to deal with it and what you can possibly run it with, leaving out the skeleton lists simply because it’s tough to make lists that can vary so much depending on who’s paired with who.

1. Yanmega Prime

pokegym.netFairly large flying bug is up first and is probably one of the most splashable out of the Pokémon in this section, simply because it can attack for free and doesn’t really take up much space when you’ve got it to spare.

Being Stage One bumps its speed up considerably as well as having free retreat, a trait also shared with its pre-evolved counterpart. It also snipes for 40 and hits the active for 70 for free when cards in each players hand are the same.

The original hype of this card was made when it was considered as a decent Donphan counter, which I don’t really believe is true. The Fighting Resistance is the only reason I can see it having to claim this title, but I don’t see that as enough of a factor to call it an outright counter when it lacks the attack power to match.

As it stands, both Pokémon can only 2HKO each other and even with the use of PlusPower, that isn’t going to change, so using this Pokémon as a sole Donphan counter won’t work unless you get the first hit in.

I personally find its sniping ability more of an attractive feature than its 70 damage to the active and a fast, decent snipe isn’t found in high numbers when it comes to this format. Sniping for 40 brings the high HP basics of Zekrom and Reshiram down to 90 and also brings Magnezone into the 1HKO range of many other attackers at 100 remaining HP.

This card is actually really great as an early game attacker to start getting those KOs, or get damage on the board early on to clean up with your main attacker. Predicting where the heavy hitters are going to come from and tacking damage onto them early on can give you the upper hand when it comes to later on in the game and make your main attacker’s job that tiny bit easier.

If you’re lacking firepower in the early game department, or struggling with those heavy Fighting types then certainly try this one out.

pokemon-paradijs.comAgainst this card, keeping your hand low is the best you can do and is a difficult thing to do. A low hand means you don’t have that much to work with, but if you’re keeping those one or two cards there that you can work with, such as PONT and Juniper, you should be okay.

Yanmega players that run Copycat are really putting themselves at a severe disadvantage if they copy that amount since they can’t determine what they are left with while you can.

Judge is also an option to keep the hands the same, but the above can still apply since they may be hesitant to Judge you when you’ll be open to more cards next turn. Them reducing their hand down is easier, but less constructive for them since they are having to either burn resources, or put themselves at a significant disadvantage just for a free attack, something that benefits yourself.

Achilles’ Heel: Yanmega’s Lightning weakness can prove a problem since it will be 1-shotted by Magnezone with 2 energy burns instead of 3. This may not seem to be much of an issue, but burning 3 energy can really take a toll on Magnezone’s energy flow, but the 2 is much easier to deal with.

With Magnezone set to make a huge appearance at Nationals, whether it be in MagneBoar or elsewhere, you’re going to have to play him fast to get the most out of him. If you’re playing a deck based around Magnezone, get that up to take care of this troublesome attacker before it snipes your board effectively and any other Lightning attacker that hits for at least 60 can do the job nicely as well.

The attack power of Yanmega can be a little bit low when you are desperate for that extra bit of damage to topple the KO, but the sniping ability does make up for it when you’ve had a little more practice in what to target and when. This strategic thinking of Yanmega only comes when you have experience playing it so get practice in there while you still can if you’re thinking of this as an optional tech.

Make sure you take note of the options your opponent has during their turn when it comes to placing damage, since hindsight will pay off greatly in your favor. It’s a tough thing to do, but it does come with practice, a factor that seems to be cropping up often!

2. Cincinno

pokegym.netEveryone’s favorite Colourless attacker has the means to deal a hefty 100 damage, with a full bench on your side of the field. Being fuelled by Double Colourless means that this chinchilla is an optional second attacker when you are utilising DCE in your energy line.

A maxed Double Colourless showing in your deck makes this secondary attacker more than viable if you’re looking for some extra power. Not as splashable as Yanmega, but can slot itself nicely in decks that have the option of lending a few DCE to this guy.

Again, Stage 1 means some pretty nice speed and can get you hitting for that maximum of 100 from turn 2 fairly consistently if you hit the correct energy or have dropped energy at the right time. Filling your bench does require you to know what you’re doing from early on in the game, but that shouldn’t be a problem if you’ve sussed what your opponent’s strategy is from the get-go.

Fast and really hard damage can get you cheap KOs on early Basics and Stage 1s before they become fully evolved, putting early aggressive pressure on your opponent, a great strategy in this current state of the game.

This Pokémon can also act as a way of getting the return KO on Rayquaza Deoxys Legend seeing as it can hit for double Colourless weakness. This can be a key turning point of a MagneBoar matchup seeing as when RDL hits the field, you’re going to need a response or you’ll effectively lose.

Having a response to this card built-in to one of your early game attackers is great, meaning you can save it as an option for the late game if you know RDL will play a huge part in your opponent’s final prize taking.

Achilles’ Heel: As with Yanmega, the weakness on this one is quite bad as well. Being weak to Donphan means that it’s going down in one hit when faced with an Earthquake since it only bears an average 90HP. Not only are you losing one of your attackers after an Earthquake, but you’ll also be losing one of your precious DCEs faster than the time it took you to attach it. Being only allowed four in your deck means that these are rather precious in your fast set up and saying goodbye to them too early can put you in a tough spot.

Speaking of Double Colourless, you could run into trouble if you can’t draw or search this out consistently enough. This card only really has Energy Exchanger to search it out efficiently and if even one is prized, you’re only left with three to draw from the deck. If you aren’t drawing into these, then this suddenly fast deck turns one turn slower by having to attach the energy one after another.

If your opponent is running this and has attached anything but DCE the previous turn, you should be able to deal with it with that extra turn in hand. Being able to 2HKO this guy early on in the game should keep the high damage at bay for long enough to set up a decent response seeing as you’ll have that extra turn to collect your resources.

One last point is that this card can really only act as an early game attacker and an RDL counter, but not really much else without PlusPower. 100 damage is actually fairly low for a format that is filled with 140 damage 1HKOs and can fall very short in the mid-late game exchange.

For this reason alone, you should probably only keep this for early game pressure to deal with the earlier stages of these big hitters before they fully evolve. Take advantage of this when playing against this early attacker and if they are stuck using this past early game, you should be okay when you’re hitting with anything over 110HP, but always bear in mind the possibility of PlusPower depending on the deck.

3. Donphan Prime

I have already mentioned this in the section regarding it paired with Machamp in its own deck, but this Pokémon can really stand up for itself when it comes to fast and hard damage.

Being able to jump from a 60/70HP basic to a hefty 120HP Stage 1 with the ability to absorb 20 damage of the attacks inflicted upon it is incredible and will cause it to stay around for at least 2 turns after it hits the field. This means that Donphan is going to be able to hit for at least 120 damage for one Fighting energy before it gets KO’d, and that’s relying on your opponent racking up 140 damage in the early game, not easy to do at all.

pokemon-paradijs.comI would say that this is one of the best early game attackers we have simply because it has the ability to apply a huge amount of early, offensive pressure leaving your opponent struggling to KO it early on thanks to its amazing Poké Body. However, this card can still stray into main attacker status because it has a certain durability and high damage output.

As mentioned above, Donphan is going to output at least 120 damage before it gets KO’d, unless your opponent is hitting for 140+ in one go, which is nothing to shy away from. Pair this with the ability to 2HKO a Magnezone Prime and you’ve actually got a fairly presentable main attacker with any other support you choose, which is why DonChamp is going to see some decent play.

Fighting is a great type to be playing at the moment with Magnezone being such a threat and other heavy hitters such as Zekrom also sporting the double weakness to it. With all these factors taken into account, Donphan gives us some nice options to work with as both an early and late game attacker.

Achilles’ Heel: Earthquake damage. The catch to Donphan’s quick and high damage is that you’ve got to add damage to each of your own benched Pokémon which is really not ideal when pretty much every deck utilises Baby Pokémon. After 3 consecutive Earthquake’s you’re going to be giving away at least one free prize to your opponent, not taking into account that you’re weakening your future late-game attackers.

This can put you at a serious disadvantage later on in the game when you’re done with the aggressive attack of Donphan earlier on, so take into account whether the Earthquake is really needed, or is there another option for your turn to get another attacker out quicker? Either way, it’s a tough call and one you’ll get used to when using this guy properly in a deck.
Earthquake!! Run!!!

Playing against this, make sure you utilise every single damage counter they’ve given you. Free damage is nothing to take for granted and can bring those future 2HKOs into crucial 1HKOs, so try and bait as many Earthquakes as you feel you can while you get the rest sorted on the bench. This may put you at a prize disadvantage in the early stages, but when it comes to the main attackers battling it out, you’ll thank yourself later.

A second weakness of this card being an early attacker is that it has a huge four Retreat Cost. With its attack being a mere 1 cost and its second being 3, you’re either going to have to utilise Switch or commit a lot of energy when choosing this as an early game attacker.

Since Donphan has some really thick skin and a decent second attack too, when using this as a main attacker you maybe won’t have to be as conscious as to getting it out of the Active Spot.

If your opponent is going aggro Donphan early on with no sign of Machamp, keep in mind that they have that really high Retreat Cost since it may influence some of your decisions, like having the option to snipe with Yanmega while taking reduced blows with Donphan. Either way, that Retreat Cost will hurt at some point when Machamp Prime isn’t around.

So those are pretty much all the most important cards you’re going to come across during the course of the weekend including how to play against them. If you’ve taken in all the information in this article and practiced the matchups accordingly, you should have a good grasp of the current field.

Before I get to the video at the end, I just want to address a quick point that may be on your mind.

Where’s the Dual Ball at?

pokegym.netYou may have noticed that none of my skeleton lists above have mentioned Dual Ball as a possible addition. This is because I am becoming less of a fan of the card every day, even though a lot of people consider it ‘staple’ right now.

I’m favoring maximum Collector and Communication over Dual Ball since it guarantees you the collection of Basics rather than having to rely on a couple of coin flips. Turn one Collector is so crucial in this format and not starting with one can put you at a disadvantage if your opponent does, which further supports the idea of maxing Collector in pretty much everything.

I’m still on the fence about it seeing as I can do without it if I take it out altogether and use the space for more constructive cards like maxing Rare Candy and Junk Arm much more freely. Flippy cards have never been a strong point of mine and rolling double tails is something I don’t really like dealing with when I need to get those Basics either to bench or to Communication away.

So, yeah, still not sold on the card, but not ruling it out altogether. I’d love to hear all of your thoughts on it.

Canadian Nationals – ZPS won! What’s up with that?

The unexpected really did happen, a deck labelled by even the best as ‘bad’ went on to rule the weekend just a couple of days ago in Canada. I won’t go into too much detail, since there’s another article on it and this is getting a tad long, but here’s a quick roundup on how this will affect play of some of the decks I’ve mentioned.

MagneBoar: Only two of these appeared in the top 16 and one made it to top 8 and losing there. I’m not sure how well it was represented during the day but it is a slightly surprising result that only a couple got really far. I think this deck will still see huge play at US Nats regardless since it still has great matchups and some great lists available. Still do practice this matchup!

Yanmega: This bug was everywhere in Canada. We had different partners for it doing well, with one of the most popular being Magnezone Prime. Numerous decks in top 16 ran this guy and it was doing well all round with one even making top 2 with another prime I’ll mention a little further down.

I would expect to see a lot of this at US Nats, even before these results even came in, but these results will further boost the popularity of it being a potential tech in a lot of builds. Watch out for this one.

ZPS: The eventual winner that some people are saying had great luck in matchups since Yanmega variants were in high numbers and it avoided any DonChamps. Again, I’m not really sure how well this was represented but it was the only one in top 16 which could suggest that it wasn’t that popular.

It would be interesting to see the list the winner used since it’s reported that he didn’t run Yanmega or anything else, just straight, raw Zekrom power. This deck will be played at US Nats and will maybe back up some people’s reasoning behind playing it. Not sure if it will repeat its success though.

Kingdra Prime: This underrated prime went and got to top 2 undefeated when paired with the very popular Yanmega. This deck was also reported to run Jirachi UL which implies that this deck was solely out get Stage 2s and in particular Magnezone Prime.

pokegym.netBeing able to ‘Spray Splash’ and ‘Linear Attack’ for a total of 50 damage equalling KOs Magnemites straight away and Jirachi would deal with it when it became Magnezone by bouncing it back to the hand an KOing the Magnemite beneath.

This prime could see more play because of this, but not as soon as Nationals. Do keep your eye out for any variants that have been practiced well though while keeping it under wraps.

Vileplume: A ‘secret deck’ of Mew/Vileplume/Jumpluff/Muk made it to top 16, but lost there in a very interesting concoction. This deck was designed to be able to Lost Zone the main attackers and use them through Mew’s PokéBody while locking your opponent’s deck with Vileplume. Vileplume is still a great Pokémon in this format but is just lacking the support it needs to be fully effective as a concept again.

This variant obviously worked somewhat, but I’m not sure I see it doing great when it comes to the US. I’m still putting my money on there being a high count of MagneBoar and especially Donphan which can KO those Mews all day with Earthquake even under trainer lock. One to watch out for, but maybe not at the top tables.

What Does It Mean For The US? I wouldn’t say that this changes a lot for the actual day because people really shouldn’t be changing their decks this close to the event. I would just fit more practice in against the decks that did well rather than switching over because that would definitely be a bad move. Get that extra practice in before the weekend just to verify your strategy against them in case they crop up again.

I wish you all the best of luck and I am eager to hear the results of this one!

Two Upcoming Ideas – Battle Video

Battle videos are something that all Pokémon players like to watch to see how others play certain decks along with how certain players approach each kind of gameplay scenario.

Below I have created a best-of-three game video between two ideas that I really like and are below the radar, so to speak. The first deck is Jumpluff with Vileplume and the second is Reshiram with Typhlosion and Ninetales. Here are the two lists we used:


Pokémon – 25

2 Pichu HS
1 Cleffa HS
1 Tyrogue HS
4 Hoppip HS
3 Skiploom HS
4 Jumpluff HS
2 Sunkern HS
2 Sunflora HS
2 Oddish UD
2 Gloom UD
2 Vileplume UD

Trainers – 22

4 Pokémon Collector
4 Copycat
3 Professor Oak’s New Theory
2 Professor Elm’s Training Method
1 Judge
4 Pokémon Communication
4 Rare Candy

Energy – 13

10 G
3 Rescue

Reshiram/Typhlosion w/ Ninetales

Pokémon – 22

3 Cleffa HS
1 Tyrogue HS
4 Reshiram BLW
4 Cyndaquil HS
2 Quilava HS
4 Typhlosion Prime
2 Vulpix HS
2 Ninetales HS

Trainers – 26

4 Pokémon Collector
4 Professor Oak’s New Theory
3 Energy Retrieval
2 PlusPower
3 Pokémon Circulator
3 Pokémon Communication
3 Junk Arm
3 Rare Candy
1 Switch

Energy – 12

12 R

I won’t analyse the lists here because the article is long as it is and I do have commentary which covers most of our decisions. If you do have any questions that I haven’t covered in the video, please ask me in the forums. We’re really enjoying these two decks at the moment and they both show some great competitive promise.

I hope you enjoy the video below and let me know what you think!


Thanks a lot for reading this article and I hope you learned or refreshed your mind on what to expect and play at Nationals. Stay well prepared and learn your deck choice inside out and you won’t be disappointed when you get to the weekend.

Thanks to Adam for giving me this opportunity and make sure you +1 if you want to hear more from me in the future.


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